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A case in study of the lengths people will go to prove to themselves and each other that they are happy with the choices they made in life.
Shakespeare once said that the world is like a stage and the people, the actors. The modern world, however, is less of a play and more of a reality show. The prize is a successful future. The purpose of this drive towards success is fueled by the hope that eventually, somewhere down the line, it will be universally acknowledged that you have made the right choices, you are great, you are nothing like your father, and you do indeed know what you are doing with your life. Success in life is relative and the only way to truly know your status in the game of life is to compare your successes to those of your loved ones. What have you achieved this past year? How much money is in your 401K? Have you lost weight recently? How many people would visit you if you were in the hospital? The list is endless.
In one particular round three couples in various states of marriage are having dinner together. This dinner cannot possibly be simply a dinner, but the stage where the players are hedging their bets to determine a victor in their midst. These three distinct couples differ in nearly every aspect, but are bonded by a common drive towards the grand prize. It's anyone's guess how high they'll go and how far they'll reach to obtain these happy endings.
THE TRENTS' RIVERSIDE CONDO 5:49 PM
'Are you even listening to me?'
'No.' He responds placidly. 'Of course not, honey, I'm trying to watch the game.'
'Well stop trying. They'll be here soon. Help me clean up!' She snaps.
He sighs and stands up and makes an elaborate show of effort. He shuffles the loose papers. He shuffles the magazines. He shuffles his feet. The mess in the living room remains, for the most part, undisturbed. The moment she is back in the kitchen, he plops back down onto the couch. She doesn't notice, too busy ripping off price tags and shoving the roast into the oven. She feels unfamiliar in this immaculate kitchen.
In the living room, Mr. Trent falls asleep, completely oblivious to her state of despair. Dinner could always wait. Besides, sometimes it's better for a person to be alone to deal. What can he do?
Sleep is more important.
MIRANDA AND WES'S APARTMENT ABOVE THE DOCK 6:18 PM
Miranda flips through the latest issue of People magazine. 'I can't believe all this crap. Why would anyone waste hours of their lives to print this? WHY?'
'Miranda, why do you buy those magazines if ever time you read them, you get upset?'
'I'm pregnant, Wes. Everything makes me upset.' She tosses the magazine haphazardly in disgust.
'It's time to go to the Trents'.' Wes states as he checks his watch.
'Oh. Do you think they'll notice if we don't show up?'
'A little bit.'
'Why can't we just stay in tonight?'
'They're our best friends.'
He sits back down on the sofa. Miranda wasn't exactly the kind of woman that he pictured himself marrying. They had nothing in common besides the fact they both graduated from the same college. He doubted anyone set out in life to find a young woman whose most distinguishable characteristics include an obsession of obscure driftwood sculptures and a deep, personal ambition to discover the reason why 'racecar' is spelled the same backwards. But opposites attracted right? RIGHT?
MR. AND MRS. WILLARD'S HOUSE NEXT TO A FEW HILLS OF SOME SORT 7: 02 PM
'We're going to be late.'
'Oh.' Mrs. Willard sets down her perfume and sweeps one long, last look at her reflection. 'One minute. I'm almost ready.'
'How long have you been in there? The driver is waiting.'
'I'm just putting on some lipstick.'
'I could make lipstick in the time it takes you to apply it.'
'That's only because you designed a machine that does just that. I'm a woman, not a machine.'
Mr. Willard sighs and waits. Mrs. Willard emerges. 'Finally.'
'Oh, wait, I forgot my purse!'
THE TRENTS' RIVERSIDE CONDO 8:34 PM
The guests arrived between 7:00 and 8:00 PM. Dinner was served in such a manner as to suggest that the hosts were not quite prepared to entertain just yet.
A series of separate and unrelated conversations were floating around the dinner table.
(In front of the TV)
'Good game.' Wes says as he sips his drink.
Mr. Willard smiles uncomfortably.
Mr. Trent grunts in response.
(In the kitchen)
'The roast was incredible, Linda. You have to give me the recipe'
(Back in the kitchen)
Mr. Trent grabs a glass from the cabinet and runs into Linda.
'Linda, it really is turning out to be a great dinner.'
Linda is silent.
'Don't mind the Willards. They don't seem to understand things like the rest of us do.'
Linda remains silent.
'It's a really nice night, maybe later we can all go onto the deck.'
(By the edge of the table next to the window)
'Oh, Mark's all grown up now! You must be so proud.' Mrs. Willard slurs delightfully. 'And so handsome. He's like the son I never had.'
'You have three sons.' Miranda points out.
'Well, the twins are just babies, really. And you can hardly tell them apart. They're so dull, darling. And David? Just look at him, with those blue blocker glasses and hand knit sweater. Such a loser.'
After dinner, their guests depart without incident and the house is silent once more.
These three couples embody the basic types of marriage. The Trents feign happiness at their success although they are far from it. They are the kind of people who keep things to themselves and do not address a problem initially, hoping that it will just go away. They know each other so well that they can carefully sidestep any issue. In this exhausting dance around the things that really matter, their love is their only redeeming quality. The Willards disguise their advancing age by spending lavishly. She is no longer as young and beautiful as she would have you believe. He is no longer as motivated in his business. Their marriage survives because they spend as little time together as possible. Each has something better to do. But they return to each other because of their love, or at least, the memory of that love. Miranda and Wes Johnson are young. They married young and have a fifty percent chance of divorcing young. They represent the couples that do not understand the weight and purpose of marriage. They have light, romantic ideas of their relationship where despite being completely unsuited for each other, they will be happy as long as they are together. They may or may not be in love with each other; only time will tell.
So who wins? If you were to ask different people, the results may vary. The winner of this game is the couple who will be happy in the next fifty years, the couple that love each other enough to make things work, no matter how they will have to deal. And if they are still married fifty years later, then that is the couple who has won because fifty years is an unnatural amount of time to spend with someone you only kind of like.
The winner of this game is the one with the best quality of life.
The best player in this game is the player who is no longer playing; just living.